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Master of intrigue Conan Doyle accused of murder

Sherlock Holmes
Sherlock Holmes: Now his creator is under suspicion  

It could be a plot straight from the pages of a novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle a murder mystery intriguing enough for the great Sherlock Holmes detective hero he created to solve.

A world famous author steals a story idea from his best friend and the resulting book becomes a best seller. To avoid being exposed as a fraud, he has his friend killed by persuading the wife, with whom he is having an affair, to poison him.

Proving that fact is often stranger than fiction, this scenario is now an allegation being made against Conan Doyle himself some 70 years after his death.

A team of detectives from Scotland Yard has been assigned to investigate the claim that he had his friend and fellow author, Bertram Fletcher Robinson, poisoned by laudanum.

The allegation is made by former psychologist and writer Rodger Garrick-Steele, who has spent 11 years researching Conan Doyle's relationship with Robinson.

Garrick-Steele claims Conan Doyle stole the plot for his most celebrated detective novel, The Hound of the Baskervilles, from Fletcher Robinson.

Fletcher Robinson died in 1907, aged 36, and the cause of death was given as typhoid. But Garrick-Steele says Conan Doyle poisoned him with laudanum, which displays similar symptoms.

He claims Robinson's wife Gladys was coerced into administering the deadly drug, with Conan Doyle using his medical knowledge as a qualified doctor.

Garrick-Steele has put forward his theories in a book titled House of the Baskervilles, in which he poses three questions.

"Why did Fletcher Robinson never see a doctor until the day his death certificate was signed?

"Given that typhoid is highly contagious, why did not one relative, friend, colleague, or member of his staff contract the disease?

"Why was his body taken from London's Belgravia, where he died, to his home in Devon for burial on a packed public train when typhoid victims were almost always cremated?"

Garrick-Steel says Conan Doyle visited Robinson's home on the edge of Dartmoor, the setting for the Hound of the Baskervilles, in 1900, where his host regaled him with Dartmoor's legends, including the tale of the ghostly hound.

Robinson had a coachman, named Harry Baskerville, who years later in a radio interview said the two men discussed a manuscript written by Robinson called An Adventure on Dartmoor. The Hound of the Baskervilles was published in 1902.

Garrick-Steele began his interest in the mystery after he moved into Fletcher Robinson's home, Park Hill House, in the early 1980's.

Scotland Yard, often scorned by Conan Doyle in his Sherlock Holmes novels, has instructed a team of detectives to investigate the claims.

A spokeswoman said they had received "sketchy details" of the circumstances surrounding Robinson's death, and would be looking at any further evidence available.

"It will depend on the strength of the evidence as to how far we take the inquiry," she added.



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